Genesis 32

Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau

1 Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.[a]
3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now.
5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’ ”
6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups,[b] and the flocks and herds and camels as well.
8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group,[c] the group[d] that is left may escape.”
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’
10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps.
11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.
12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’ ”
13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau:
14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams,
15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.
16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”
17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’
18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’ ”
19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him.
20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’ ” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.”
21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[e] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[f] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[g] and he was limping because of his hip.
32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

Genesis 32 Commentary

Chapter 32

Jacob's vision at Mahanaim, His fear of Esau. (1-8) Jacob's earnest prayer for deliverance, He prepares a present for Esau. (9-23) He wrestles with the Angel. (24-32)

Verses 1-8 The angels of God appeared to Jacob, to encourage him with the assurance of the Divine protection. When God designs his people for great trials, he prepares them by great comforts. While Jacob, to whom the promise belonged, had been in hard service, Esau was become a prince. Jacob sent a message, showing that he did not insist upon the birth-right. Yielding pacifies great offences, ( Ecclesiastes 10:4 ) . We must not refuse to speak respectfully, even to those unjustly angry with us. Jacob received an account of Esau's warlike preparations against him, and was greatly afraid. A lively sense of danger, and quickening fear arising from it, may be found united with humble confidence in God's power and promise.

Verses 9-23 Times of fear should be times of prayer: whatever causes fear, should drive us to our knees, to our God. Jacob had lately seen his guards of angels, but in this distress he applied to God, not to them; he knew they were his fellow-servants, Re. 22:9 . There cannot be a better pattern for true prayer than this. Here is a thankful acknowledgement of former undeserved favours; a humble confession of unworthiness; a plain statement of his fears and distress; a full reference of the whole affair to the Lord, and resting all his hopes on him. The best we can say to God in prayer, is what he has said to us. Thus he made the name of the Lord his strong tower, and could not but be safe. Jacob's fear did not make him sink into despair, nor did his prayer make him presume upon God's mercy, without the use of means. God answers prayers by teaching us to order our affairs aright. To pacify Esau, Jacob sent him a present. We must not despair of reconciling ourselves to those most angry against us.

Verses 24-32 A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer. The Angel puts a lasting mark of honour upon him, by changing his name. Jacob signifies a supplanter. From henceforth he shall be celebrated, not for craft and artful management, but for true valour. Thou shalt be called Israel, a prince with God, a name greater than those of the great men of the earth. He is a prince indeed that is a prince with God; those are truly honourable that are mighty in prayer. Having power with God, he shall have power with men too; he shall prevail, and gain Esau's favour. Jacob gives a new name to the place. He calls it Peniel, the face of God, because there he had seen the appearance of God, and obtained the favour of God. It becomes those whom God honours, to admire his grace towards them. The Angel who wrestled with Jacob was the second Person in the sacred Trinity, who was afterwards God manifest in the flesh, and who, dwelling in human nature, is called Immanuel, ( hosea 12:4 hosea 12:5 ) . Jacob halted on his thigh. It might serve to keep him from being lifted up with the abundance of the revelations. The sun rose on Jacob: it is sun-rise with that soul, which has had communion with God.

Cross References 56

  • 1. S Genesis 16:11; 2 Kings 6:16-17; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Psalms 34:7; Psalms 35:5; Psalms 91:11; Daniel 6:22; Hebrews 1:14
  • 2. S Genesis 28:17
  • 3. Joshua 13:26,30; Joshua 21:38; 2 Samuel 2:8,29; 2 Samuel 17:24; 2 Samuel 19:32; 1 Kings 2:8; 1 Kings 4:14; 1 Chronicles 6:80
  • 4. Numbers 21:21; Judges 11:17
  • 5. S Genesis 27:41-42
  • 6. S Genesis 14:6; S Numbers 24:18
  • 7. S Genesis 25:30; S Genesis 36:16; Genesis 36:8,9
  • 8. S Genesis 24:9
  • 9. S Genesis 18:3
  • 10. Genesis 31:41
  • 11. S Genesis 12:16; Genesis 30:43
  • 12. S Genesis 24:9
  • 13. Ge 33:8,10,15; Genesis 34:11; Genesis 47:25,29; Genesis 50:4; Ruth 2:13
  • 14. Genesis 33:1
  • 15. ver 11
  • 16. Genesis 35:3; Psalms 4:1; Psalms 77:2; Psalms 107:6
  • 17. ver 10; Genesis 33:1
  • 18. S Genesis 24:12
  • 19. S Genesis 28:13; Genesis 31:42
  • 20. S Genesis 26:3; Genesis 31:13
  • 21. S Genesis 24:27
  • 22. Genesis 38:18; Genesis 47:31; Numbers 17:2
  • 23. S ver 7
  • 24. S ver 7
  • 25. Genesis 43:18; Psalms 59:2
  • 26. S Genesis 27:41
  • 27. S Genesis 22:17; 1 Kings 4:20,29
  • 28. S Genesis 12:2; S Genesis 13:14; Genesis 28:13-15; Hosea 1:10; Romans 9:27
  • 29. ver 13-15,18,20,21; Genesis 33:10; Genesis 43:11,15,25,26; 1 Samuel 16:20; Proverbs 18:16; Proverbs 21:14
  • 30. Numbers 7:88
  • 31. S Genesis 13:2; Genesis 42:26; Genesis 45:23
  • 32. Genesis 33:8
  • 33. S Genesis 18:3
  • 34. S ver 13
  • 35. S Genesis 18:3
  • 36. S ver 13; 1 Samuel 9:7; 2 Kings 8:8; Jeremiah 40:5
  • 37. 1 Samuel 25:19
  • 38. Genesis 33:10; Exodus 28:38; Leviticus 1:4; Malachi 1:8; Proverbs 21:14
  • 39. S ver 13
  • 40. S Genesis 30:24
  • 41. Numbers 21:24; Deuteronomy 2:37; Deuteronomy 3:16; Joshua 12:2
  • 42. S Genesis 26:14
  • 43. Daniel 10:8
  • 44. S Genesis 18:2
  • 45. ver 32
  • 46. Hosea 12:4
  • 47. S Genesis 25:26
  • 48. Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 56:5; Isaiah 60:14; Isaiah 62:2,4,12; Isaiah 65:15
  • 49. S Genesis 17:5; Genesis 35:10; 1 Kings 18:31
  • 50. S Genesis 30:8
  • 51. Exodus 3:13; Exodus 6:3; Judges 13:17
  • 52. Judges 13:18
  • 53. Genesis 25:11; Genesis 35:9; Genesis 48:3
  • 54. S Genesis 16:13; 1 Corinthians 13:12; Exodus 24:11; Numbers 12:8; Judges 6:22; Judges 13:22
  • 55. Judges 8:9
  • 56. ver 25

Footnotes 7

  • [a]. "Mahanaim" means "two camps."
  • [b]. Or "camps"
  • [c]. Or "camp"
  • [d]. Or "camp"
  • [e]. "Israel" probably means "he struggles with God."
  • [f]. "Peniel" means "face of God."
  • [g]. Hebrew "Penuel" , a variant of "Peniel"

Chapter Summary


This chapter informs us of Jacob's proceeding on in his journey, and of his being met and guarded by an host of angels, Ge 32:1,2; of his sending messengers to his brother Esau, acquainting him with his increase, and desiring his favour and good will, Ge 32:3-5, who return and report to him, that Esau was coming to him with four hundred men, which put him into a panic, and after devising ways and means for the security of himself; and those with him, at least a part, if not the whole, Ge 32:6-8; then follows a prayer of his to God, pressing his unworthiness of mercies, and his sense of them, imploring deliverance from his brother, and putting the Lord in mind of his promises, Ge 32:9-12; after which we have an account of the wise methods he took for the safety of himself and family, by sending a present to his brother, dividing those who had the charge of it into separate companies, and directing them to move at a proper distance from each other, he, his wives and children, following after, Ge 32:13-23; when they were over the brook Jabbok, he stopped, and being alone, the Son of God in an human form appeared to him, and wrestled with him, with whom Jacob prevailed, and got the blessing, and hence had the name of Israel, Ge 32:24-28; and though he could not get his name, he perceived it was a divine Person he had wrestled with, and therefore called the name of the place Penuel, Ge 32:29-31; the hollow of his thigh being touched by him with whom he wrestled, which put it out of joint, he halted as he went over Penuel, in commemoration of which the children of Israel eat not of that part of the thigh, Ge 32:31,32.

Genesis 32 Commentaries

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